No Longer Home Review
Reviewing No Longer Home feels a bit of an oddity in itself. It never feels so much like a game as someone’s art piece – a passion project between two developers based on their real-life experiences. Can you relate? That’s the question.
How you react to these experiences and the sum of its parts is really less a question of whether you enjoy playing No Longer Home and more simply how it makes you feel and what parts of your life it calls forward for you to examine. I can clearly recall where I was at a time in my life when some of the questions raised in the game were moving around in my head. Everything felt so important, but now nearly a decade beyond university and into my career, I had a hard time connecting to this tale. And a huge part of that is simply my own personal growth and hindsight.
No Longer Home as a game is mostly a point and click style of experience. You walk characters around an isometric space, interact with objects and learn more about the story, the characters, and the strife they’re dealing with. The presentation is top-notch and almost closer to Lara Croft Go in its abstract rendering of a world, which really draws you in. Later on, you get the ability to spin the isometric landscape around, revealing new pieces of rooms you did not see before. The sound design is soft and not too melancholy. It’s relaxing and calming as you move the story along.
It’s the story I have the bigger problems with. Fundamentally, a lot of characterization is repetitive without hooking you into the conflict itself. Bo and Ao, the two leads of the story, are facing a lot of life changes. They’re at the stage of life where society often expects you to have it figured out. You finished school so of course, you can get a job. You know what the next 10 years look like.
I can personally identify this time of my life, as I decided not to go to university right away while all my friends were chasing degrees without a clear answer on what job the degree would give them. I remember being a drifter at my parent’s house, working a retail gig, and partying. I remember, too, when I went back to school to get a better job.
Self-Absorbed Twenty-somethings? Who’d Have Guessed?
Looking back at my own stories, like Bo and Ao’s, I realize now that while I thought it was super important and so stressful, it ultimately wasn’t. It’s hard to connect with the two leads when so much of their feelings come across as dire self-importance in the self-absorbed vacuum of living your twenties. Bo’s dialog is rife with his anguish over things like… changing apartments and trying to find a job. Their friends are eclectic hipsters in the same space, talking about similar problems over a BBQ. Not once does the game offer something fresh or wholly unique to let you take your place in its story.
Where Max in Life is Strange can rewind time to change her perspective, or Gone Home’s environment leaves clues for you to piece together, No Longer Home fails to stick the landing of allowing player agency and world-building. It just has a lot to say instead of showing you. They do play with the idea of acknowledging their own privilege, but I couldn’t get myself to engage with it. Yes, they’re dealing with some weighty life experiences and choices. Still, when you get into your thirties, you quickly realize all of this self-importance is a trifle, especially going through a pandemic that affects the world in profound ways.
Overall, it was hard to care for Ao and Bo’s story. The dialog was a slog. The character’s perspectives often changed too fast. And while going over their dilemmas, again and again, I found myself not wanting to play anymore. I’d rather just go out for a beer and talk to them in person and let them know life is going to be okay. High school and college are but footnotes in hopefully a long healthy story of yourself. In the end, if you find yourself at this particular time in life, it might be worth experiencing their story. But if you’re past it, you may not find much here to resonate with.
***PC code provided by the publisher for review***
Stellar and understated audio design
Some character standouts
Dialog feels stilted and overwritten
Meanders too often
Long sections do little for story